Japan’s second largest airline ANA All Nippon Airways was formed in 1958 as the result of a merger of two small carriers. The airline developed a domestic network and listed on the stock exchange in 1961 while it also forged alliances with ground services companies who received shares to cement the deals. By 1974 ANA was Japan’s largest domestic carrier but the airline was permitted to fly charter flights to international destinations from 1971. In 1986 Japan deregulated aviation and ANA expanded its network to Asian destinations, the US and briefly Australia. ANA’s focus has always been concentrated on serving the needs of Japan’s travelling public. In 1999 ANA joined Star Alliance and in 2011 became Boeing’s launch customer for its long delayed 787 Dreamliner. In 1971 ANA was at the centre of a bribery scandal involving airline executives, Japan’s Prime Minister and US aircraft manufacturer Lockheed. Japan’s legacy airlines have been struggling to survive against the onslaught of discount rivals coupled with the country’s prolonged economic stagnation. The 2011 earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster have not helped the fortunes of any Japanese airline, including ANA and the onslaught of no-frills carriers is hurting ANA’s bottom line.
ANA’s passengers are predominantly Japanese they would settle for nothing less than the politest of crews. Service is formal, understated and discrete. Staff will promptly fulfil passenger requests to the best of their abilities and politely refuse unreasonable requests where others airlines might snarl. Foreigners will be delighted with flight attendants service levels, yet Japanese passengers will find it normal. While crew are fine, uniforms and aircraft interiors are uninspiring if not drab.
ANA’s network caters to the travelling public of Japan and they have never shown any particular interest in attracting international passengers. Therefore their network is designed strictly to satisfy their target market which they do effectively. ANA’s domestic network is second to none, while they link Japan to major international destinations only. To their closest neighbours, South Korea, Taiwan and China; their network is minimal and other global destinations are covered in an almost token endeavour. Japan’s travelling public are cautious and they seldom stray from the main tourist paths. ANA withdraws from routes as soon as they become unprofitable.
ANA offers very competitive fares both domestically and internationally. Domestically they compete against rail and no frills carriers and on short international routes face a myriad of competition from superior and discount airlines; therefore prices are consistently reasonable.
ANA distinguishes itself by remaining a full service airline that provides very nice authentically Japanese meals. Long haul international flights will have western choices together with Japanese cuisine. Serving sizes can be modest but are beautifully presented especially in premium classes. Japanese beer is served on every flight. ANA's Coffee is pretty ordinary.
ANA’s Sky Audio and In-flight Movies electronic entertainment system is very standard. Choices are principally aimed to entertain Japanese passengers with a few non-Japanese language options for foreigners on major international routes. Short distance domestic flights will not have seat back entertainment units but all newer planes do. ANA’s system attempts to provide distracting entertainment rather than over-the-top movie marathons. The airlines magazine is innovatively available as an iPhone application for keen readers.
As you would expect ANA provides efficient Japanese ground service and faultless baggage handling. If anything goes wrong on international flights it is unlikely to be the airline’s responsibility. The airline typically allows passengers to carry excess without paying, but if you need to, it is expensive. Japanese holiday makers are notoriously light packers and the idea of travelling with the kitchen sink is alien to Japanese tourists. Travel Insurance is unnecessary for domestic travel in Japan.
ANA’s premium class which is called Premium Class is understated, if not ordinary, however the quality of its meal service surpasses many ‘better’ airlines. Meal presentation is artistic and resembles restaurant fine dining. The taste is sublime. Cutlery is dull, except for the traditional Japanese plates used for certain items. You may literally want to take photos of meals before you reach for your chopsticks. ANA’s lounges are elegant rather than opulent, aiming at meeting the needs of Japanese business travellers rather than honeymooners or celebrities. ANA’s business class product is definitely targeted at business Men.
ANA provides a very traditional Economy Class product that was the standard before no-frill carriers took the market down hill. ANA’s Economy passengers are treated like valued customers, are served a complimentary meal, receive a standard baggage allowance and are unlikely to experience anything unpleasant from the airline. An Economy Class trip is a nice way to travel and will give foreigners a small taste of Japan before they arrive.
Japanese people are not huge on gimmicks and in all honesty that’s what frequent flyer schemes are. Naturally ANA has one, which is part of Star Alliance’s vast network, but the airline has not developed it into an on-line department store or elite social club the way others have. ANA Mileage Bank is aimed at genuine frequent flyers and they make no effort to attract millions of non-frequent flyers who won’t benefit which airlines in America, Australia and Europe specialise in doing.
ANA’s corporate culture history is surprisingly ugly. Bribe taking, bribe making, corruption, nepotism, cover-ups and herd mentality are all the skills that senior management have either possessed or continue to possess. Despite a pleasant surface, once it is scratched it appears ANA is little different from some of the worst managed airlines, such as Qantas or Southwest. Saving face is more important than actually doing the right thing. Promotion has little to do with ability.
ANA has a reputation for maintaining its aircraft better than JAL which is not necessarily much of a compliment. ANA has experienced a variety of incidents ranging from attempted on-board bomb detonation, accidents and peculiar pilot errors, but in reality the airline is very safe and well maintained. ANA typically purchase aircraft new and fly them for a very long time, maintaining them well throughout their life.
A distinctly Japanese legacy airline that provides an all round, slightly above average service.
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